|ESPN Louisville 24 vs North Carolina State 31 |
Offense: Louisville sports an offense that is ranked poor statistically, but has really improved over the course of the year. I find this bowl game to be one of the more interesting bowl games that is under the radar between two pretty good teams. Freshman QB Teddy Bridgewater is at the helm for the Cardinals and his growth has been well documented over the year. I have personally watched him and say that he is now a very good quarterback. I don't think I would have said that earlier in the season about the Big East rookie of the year. RB Victor Anderson is the main back. He averages 4.8 yards per carry. The power back for the Cards is sophomore Dominique Brown. When Bridgewater looks to pass, he will look to fellow freshmen Devante Parker and Michaelee Harris. This Louisville offense is young and improving, which could mean trouble for not only the NC State defense, but the future new-look Big East. North Carolina State also boasts an offense that has improved over the course of time. Senior quarterback Mike Glennon is in charge. He is so trusted that the North Carolina State staff pretty much told Russell Wilson to leave so that Glennon could play. Wilson is currently preparing for the Rose Bowl with Wisconsin. Glennon has a trusty tight end George Bryan. He was an All-ACC pick for the Wolfpack. Two other receivers to watch for are TJ Graham and Tobias Palmer. The offensive line will have to slow down a very aggressive Louisville defense for success in this one.
Defense: Louisville has been known for its defense under head coach Charlie Strong and this year's team is no exception. The Cardinals give up just 19 points a game. At linebacker, Louisville is led by the duo of Dexter Heyman and Preston Brown. Perhaps the best player on Louisville is SS Hakeem Smith. He leads the team in solo tackles and has also forced 3 fumbles on the year. Up front, DE William Savoy leads the team in sacks with 5. North Carolina State has a (pardon the pun) middle of the pack defense. They give up 25 points a game. The defense has given up as many as 45 and as little as 0. What defense shows up for NC State will be the deciding factor in this game. It has, however, improved greatly over the course of the season, so expect a pretty good defensive effort. Cornerback David Amerson is an absolute playmaker. The man has 11 interceptions. Yes, 11. That is about 1 per game. Look for him to make some plays. Junior linebacker Terrell Manning is the backbone of the team and is in just about every play.
The pick: This game is a very good one and I have to go with Louisville. I think Teddy Bridgwater is ready to shine on the national level and Louisville picks up a close win in a game that could go either way. If you agree or disagree let me know why by tweeting me @bowlseason or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I'll post them if you send them.
We picked Louisville to win. We are now 5-5.
Charlie Springer, of U of L Card Game, a website devoted to Louisville sports, answered some questions for us.
Dominque Brown, a 6-foot-2 sophomore power running back from Cincinnati, will be called on to get the really crucial yards. He's especially dangerous in the Wild Card formation, averaging more than six yards per carry when he is calling signals. Otherwise, he picking up 3.7 yards per carry.
Austin Johnson, of Pack Pride answered some questions for us about NC State.
Austin Johnson: Mostly, they got healthy. The defense line specifically had severe injuries problems early in the year and it really magnified the Pack's depth issues as the 2nd and 3rd string lineman struggled. Once they got a few guys back however, the defense really buckled down and became the strength of the team.
Overall it was a decent year for O'Brien and the program. Given the schedule, I think fans expected a little more going into the year but given the injuries 7-5 isn't a bad finish. This is a team that will return a large portion of its starters next year so 2012 could be a make-or-break season for O'Brien.
Austin Johnson: Glennon has played well for most of the season and you definitely can see the reasons why the staff thought so highly of him coming into the year. He can make every throw and when he gets time in the pocket he can pick a defense apart. He is however not at all mobile, so teams that had success against the Pack were the ones that were able to pressure Glennon - that's when he makes mistakes.
Austin Johnson: I'd have to go with Manning. This is a team that was winning games with its defense late in the season, and Manning's presence in the middle might have been the biggest reason why. He's a vocal leader and I expect he'll come up with a big sack or fumble recovery that will swing this game.